Bob should treat both positions as incomplete, and explore a viewpoint which does a better job of separating value from volatility.
So we should start by recognizing that what Bob is really doing is trading pieces of paper (say Stocks from Fund #1 or Bonds from Fund #2, to pick historically volatile and non-volatile instruments.*) for pieces of paper (Greenbacks). In the end, this is a trade, and should always be thought of as such. Does Bob value his stocks more than his bonds? Then he should probably draw from Fund #2. If he values his bonds more, he should probably draw from Fund #1.
However, both Bob and his financial adviser demonstrate an assumption: that an instrument, whether stock bond or dollar bill, has some intrinsic value (which may raise over time). The issue is whether its perceived value is a good measure of its actual value or not.
From this perspective, we can see the stock (Fund #1) as having an actual value that grows quickly (6.5% - 1.85% = 4.65%), and the bond (Fund #2) as having an actual value that grows slower (4.5% - 1.15$ = 3.35$). Now the perceived value of the stocks is highly volatile. The Chairman of the Fed sneezes and a high velocity trader drives a stock up or down at a rate that would give you whiplash.
This perspective aligns with the broker's opinion. If the stocks are low, it means their perceived value is artificially low, and selling it would be a mistake because the market is perceiving those pieces of paper as being worth less than they actually are. In this case, Bob wins by keeping the stocks, and selling bonds, because the stocks are perceived as undervalued, and thus are worth keeping until perceptions change.
On the other hand, consider the assumption we carefully slid into the argument without any fanfare: the assumption that the actual value of the stock aligns with its historical value. "Past performance does not predict future results." Its entirely possible that the actual value of the stocks is actually much lower than the historical value, and that it was the perceived value that was artificially higher. It may be continuing to do so... who knows how overvalued the perceived value actually was! In this case, Bob wins by keeping the bonds. In this case, the stocks may have "underperformed" to drive perceptions towards their actual value, and Bob has a great chance to get out from under this market.
The reality is somewhere between them. The actual values are moving, and the perceived values are moving, and the world mixes them up enough to make Scratchers lottery tickets look like a decent investment instrument. So what can we do?
Bob's broker has a smart idea, he's just not fully explaining it because it is unprofessional to do so. Historically speaking, Bobs who lost a bunch of money in the stock market are poor judges of where the stock market is going next (arguably, you should be talking to the Joes who made a bunch of money. They might have more of a clue.). Humans are emotional beings, and we have an emotional instinct to cut ties when things start to go south. The market preys on emotional thinkers, happily giving them what they want in exchange for taking some of their money. Bob's broker is quoting a well recognized phrase that is a polite way of saying "you are being emotional in your judgement, and here is a phrasing to suggest you should temper that judgement."
Of course the broker may also not know what they're doing! (I've seen arguments that they don't!) Plenty of people listened to their brokers all the way to the great crash of 2008. Brokers are human too, they just put their emotions in different places. So now Bob has no clear voice to listen to. Sounds like a trap!
However, there is a solution. Bob should think about more than just simple dollars. Bob should think about the rest of his life, and where he would like the risk to appear. If Bob draws from Fund #1 (liquidating stocks), then Bob has made a choice to realize any losses or gains early... specifically now. He may win, he may lose. However, no matter what, he will have a less volatile portfolio, and thus he can rely on it more in the long run.
If Bob draws from Fund #2 (liquidating bonds) instead, then Bob has made a choice not to realize any losses or gains right away. He may win, he may lose. However, whether he wins or loses will not be clear, perhaps until retirement when he needs to draw on that money, and finds Fund #1 is still under-performing, so he has to work a few more years before retirement. There is a magical assumption that the stock market will always continue rewarding risk takers, but no one has quite been able to prove it!
Once Bob includes his life perspective in the mix, and doesn't look just at the cold hard dollars on the table, Bob can make a more educated decision. Just to throw more options on the table, Bob might rationally choose to do any one of a number of other options which are not extremes, in order to find a happy medium that best fits Bob's life needs:
- Dollar cost average the funds out of the funds. By drawing them out slowly, you use statistics to decrease the likelihood that you make an undervalued exchange (and, of course, also decreasing the likelihood that you get over on the market by cashing out at a good moment)
- Draw from both funds. There's no particular reason Bob needs to pick Fund #1 or Fund #2 to draw from. Bob can draw from them in any ratio he pleases. This gives Bob more opportunities to find the balance that fits Bob's life, not just a broker's market opinion.
- Find money from a third source. Money doesn't grown on trees, but never forget the possibility that you might underestimate your access to resources by focusing simply on 2 funds. There may be a win-win scenario here that Bob didn't even see coming!
* I intentionally chose to label Fund #1 as stocks and Fund #2 as bonds, even though this is a terribly crude assumption, because I feel those words have an emotional attachment associated to them which #1 and #2 simply do not. Given that part of the argument is that emotions play a part, it seemed reasonable to dig into underlying emotional biases as part of my wording. Feel free to replace words as you see fit to remove this bias if desired.